There is no activity for women which can be deemed safe from the threat of facing sexual violence, even running alone. The brutal death of 20-year-old US runner Mollie Tibbetts has sparked a conversation on sexual safety of women who dare to run alone. Mind you, numerous women run not just at night or in evenings, but in mornings too, and yet end up facing harassment at hands of men in one way or the other.
It not just affects their mental well-being, but also discourages them from pursuing an activity they love. However, the bitter reality is that no activity remains safe for women today. Any woman, who dares to venture out alone, whether at a pub or for a jog, automatically becomes susceptible to sexual violence. So does it mean that by going out alone for a jog, a woman is asking for harassment? No. It just means that sexual predators are always on the lookout for vulnerable targets. And as this thread by journalist Alanna Vagianos puts forward the constant sense of being pried upon, it is keeping women away from a healthy lifestyle in more ways than one.
I didn’t always love running. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized just how helpful it was for my mental health.
— Alanna Vagianos (@AlannaVagianos) August 24, 2018
No place to run safely
Tibbetts’ shocking murder is not an isolated incident of sexual violence against women who run. It is the one which has forced us to acknowledge a threat we have been ignoring since long
The catcalls, stalking and groping…it was always there. A 2016 survey by Runner’s World found that 43 per cent of women experienced harassment on the run. Some 18 per cent women said they had been sexually propositioned and 30 per cent said someone had followed them around on a bike or in a vehicle, while on the run.
- The murder of 20-year-old runner Mollie Tibbets, while she was out on a jog, has sparked a conversation on sexual safety of female runners.
- According to a survey, 43 per cent of women reported to have experienced harassment on the run.
- But are jogging with a partner or increased vigilance through tracking devices permanent antidotes for a problem which results from toxic masculinity?
In general, the haunting stories of assault and harassment — when alone — usually end up making women very conscious and worked up about their surroundings. They feel they cannot afford a single second with their guard down.
Running, which is said to be the most liberating of all exercises, has several benefits outside of just making a you fit. It is also about peace of mind, feeling your lungs fill up with fresh air every time you breathe and the sheer joy feeling the ground skip below your feet. It is such an enjoyable activity! But only when you don’t have to repeatedly look over your shoulder. Or keep your emergency contacts at a tap’s distance. Thus when such stories come to light, they end up discouraging female runners elsewhere. Many give up on this much beneficial and loved activity out of fear of sexual assault.
But to what limit must women compromise for the sake of safety?
Should they stop stepping out of their homes alone? Should they look at technology and running companions to keep them safe? The issue of safety in this matter once again points us to the root cause of all sexual violence women face — The male sense of entitlement and refusal to accept a “no”.
We can hand runners a thousand safety gadgets. We can force authorities into stricter patrolling. But predators will still find a way to harm women, whether they are out to jog, cycle or simply walk their dogs. Because what needs to change is the male mindset. The predatory mindset which will find a way to dodge every gadget or vigilant patrolman. Unless this mindset changes, women won’t be safe ever. Something as trivial as a run along the bay at seven in evening will continue to come with a heavy risk.
Picture Credit: keyword-suggestions.com
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.